The London Smell Map

By James FitzGerald Last edited 93 months ago

Last Updated 14 October 2016

The London Smell Map

Oh, Google: sometimes you know us better than we know ourselves. Who else fully appreciates how much Dagenham smells of brown Hula Hoops, and Southall of fresh pinewood and wood floors?

Not long after making this autocomplete guide to London, we wasted yet more time by drawing up our very own smell map of London, which records, area by area, the top-ranked Google results discussing how our city is considered to whiff:

Experiencing a hum of kerosene near Heathrow Airport or a sensation of very fresh air in suburban Sutton would seem fairly explicable, though other results present a few questions, not least the assertion that Highgate smells of the ocean.  Some claims would seem to be in the nose of the beholder entirely: does Kentish Town remind you of holidays, or Notting Hill of fashion?

The smell map reminds us just how powerful the olfactory sense is. Apparently, the very air in Dalston summons images of hipsters, while in Greenwich it conjures a sense of history. On which note, the rubbery stench of condoms in Covent Garden may be a hangover from the district's licentious past as a red-light district, while the impression of Bonfire Night down in Clapham may be down to the 2015 fire at the Battersea Arts Centre.  

But really, only three certain conclusions can be drawn; that they love eating toast on the south bank of the Thames through Wandsworth and Lambeth, that the borough of Bexley has issues with its sewerage around both Belvedere and Erith, and that there is a prevailing wind which carries the delectable aroma of fresh bacon northwards from Golders Green towards to Enfield.  

And no, Croydon, we don’t know what amyl nitrate is either, but just be careful before striking a match.

Before anyone says it, our map takes liberties with exact geography.